Lawyers for fugitive Iraqi VP quit case in protest

Updated 20 May 2012
0

Lawyers for fugitive Iraqi VP quit case in protest

BAGHDAD: Lawyers for Iraq’s fugitive Sunni vice president charged with running death squads that targeted Shiite officials and pilgrims quit the case on Sunday in protest after judges would not let them present evidence at the trial.
Tariq Al-Hashemi’s defense team demanded to be allowed to pull phone records and appointment calendars to help refute earlier testimony that the vice president and his son-in-law had ordered bodyguards to kill security forces and government officials.
Lawyer Muayad Obeid Al-Ezzi said the records could prove that Al-Hashemi, one of Iraq’s highest-ranking Sunni officials in the Shiite-led government, had either been out of the country or not in communication with the bodyguards at the time he allegedly ordered the assassinations.
But a three-judge panel rejected the request, and ruled that last week’s testimony by three bodyguards who swore they were given money to kill Al-Hashemi’s enemies was strong enough to negate any further evidence.
The judges also said Al-Hashemi could have arranged for the attacks while he was outside the country.
With that, Al-Ezzi and the rest of the defense team walked out.
“We decided to give up the case after the court ignored our demands,” Al-Ezzi said over the telephone after leaving the courtroom. “We do not want to be part of this unfair trial.”
For months, Al-Hashemi has claimed he will not get a fair trial on the terror charges, which he denies and calls politically motivated. He is in Istanbul and has refused to defend himself in Baghdad’s criminal court.
The case threatens to paralyze Iraq’s government by fueling simmering Sunni and Kurdish resentments against the Shiite prime minister, who critics claim is monopolizing power.
It also has strained relations between Iraq and several of its mainly Sunni neighbors, including the Gulf states and Turkey.
Last week, three of Al-Hashemi’s former bodyguards testified that they were ordered and paid to kill security officials and plant roadside bombs. They said the orders either came from Al-Hashemi’s son-in-law, who worked as his office manager, or from the vice president himself.
In an Associated Press interview a few days later, Al-Hashemi said he believes his bodyguards were pressured into testifying, and hinted then he would withdraw his defense in the trial that he claims amounts to a legal railroading.
If convicted, Al-Hashemi could face the death penalty. Judges on Sunday appointed two new lawyers for Al-Hashemi and his son-in-law.
Al-Ezzi said his defense team was willing to return to court — but only of the evidence is allowed and the judges agree to transfer the case to a special tribunal appointed by parliament.


Iran accuses rights lawyer of state security offenses: husband

Updated 4 min 55 sec ago
0

Iran accuses rights lawyer of state security offenses: husband

  • Award-winning Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh faces prosecution on state security charges following her arrest in the capital last week, her husband said
  • Sotoudeh, who is one of the few outspoken advocates for human rights in Iran, was detained in her Tehran home on June 13

TEHRAN: Award-winning Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh faces prosecution on state security charges following her arrest in the capital last week, her husband said on Saturday.
Sotoudeh, 55, denies the charges but remains in the women’s wing of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after refusing to post bail of $95,000 (more than 80,000 euros), Reza Khandan told the ISNA news agency.
“My wife is accused of conspiracy, assembly and propaganda against the system” of rule of the Islamic republic, Khandan said.
“My wife considers the accusations against her to be baseless and made up, and the bail demand to be disproportionate,” he added.
Sotoudeh, who is one of the few outspoken advocates for human rights in Iran, was detained in her Tehran home on June 13.
Her arrest has been condemned by the US State Department and human rights group Amnesty International, which both called for her immediate release.
Earlier this year, Sotoudeh represented several women arrested for protesting against the mandatory wearing of headscarves in Iran.
Tehran police said in February that 29 women had been detained for posing in public without their headscarves.
Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov rights award in 2012 for her work on high-profile human rights and political cases, including those on death row for offenses committed as minors.
She spent three years in prison between 2010 and 2013 for “actions against national security” and spreading “propaganda against the system” and remains banned from representing political cases or leaving Iran until 2022.
Sotoudeh has defended journalists and activists including Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and several dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
She had recently spoken out against a new criminal code that allowed only a small number of lawyers — just 20 in Tehran — to represent individuals charged with state security offenses.
During her previous spell in Evin, Sotoudeh staged two hunger strikes in protest at the conditions and over a ban on seeing her son and daughter.
She was released in September 2013 shortly before Iran’s then newly elected President Hassan Rouhani, who had campaigned on a pledge to improve civil rights, attended the UN General Assembly.